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Group extends MPEG-4 patent deadline

The MPEG LA clearinghouse gives technology patent holders three more months to fine-tune submissions for a highly anticipated MPEG-4 video compression standard.

A key MPEG-4 licensing clearinghouse said Tuesday that it has extended the deadline for patent submissions related to a highly anticipated video compression standard.

The new compression format, or codec, is part of the upcoming MPEG-4 (Moving Picture Experts Group) multimedia standard. MPEG LA had hoped to get the licensing ball rolling by Oct. 11, in advance of the final draft approval for the technology, known both as H.264 and as the JVT/AVC. But the group extended the deadline for submissions until Jan. 31, 2003, saying it will allow patent holders more time to prepare.

The group said in a statement that it would be able to compare submissions to the Joint Video Team's Final Draft International Standard (FDIS), rather than the Final Committee Draft as had previously been announced.

The Joint Video Team, a partnership between standards groups ISO MPEG and the ITU (International Telecommunications Union), is expected to approve the new Advanced Video Codec (JVT/AVC) in December.

Codecs help reduce the size of bulky digital files by removing data that won't be missed in the translation, and are considered key to developing new video services over the Internet and wireless networks. JVT/AVC is expected to offer fourfold improvements over MPEG-2, the standard currently used by most digital cable providers and DVD manufacturers.

The new filing deadline comes as MPEG LA is working to finalize licensing terms for MPEG-4. The group, which represents patent holders laying claim to MPEG-4 technology, has drawn criticism for delays as well as its proposed fee structure.

This summer, MPEG LA backed away from a controversial proposed per-minute MPEG-4 encoding fee that galvanized opposition from important potential backers, including Apple Computer, which has built the latest version of its QuickTime multimedia product around the standard. A second proposal issued in July is currently awaiting final approval from patent holders.

MPEG LA spokesman Larry Horn downplayed the deadline extension, saying the group would likely have been forced to rereview submissions in light of the FDIS in any case.